Every year, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world's oceans. These lost resources are worth around 80 billion US dollars. The problem: up to now, most plastic has been incinerated and only 14% recycled. Around the world, mixed waste is always left over. In the case of non-technical plastics, it is 100 to 1,000 times the amount. Here, the chemical recycling of Mura Technology Limited offers new solutions.
The Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution (HydroPRS) was developed in 2007, and tested in a pilot plant in Australia for over ten years. With HydroPRS, plastic waste that was previously impossible to recycle can be converted back into oil within 20 minutes; this is more resource-efficient than the extraction of fossil fuels from the ground. Only water, high temperatures and pressure are used to separate the cells and join them together again. One plant alone can process 20,000 tonnes of plastic per year and reduce CO2 output by 28,180 tonnes. This corresponds to the annual consumption of 5,983 cars or the annual energy needs of 4,914 households.
For traditional plastic recycling - also used by igus in its chainge programme - all waste has to be sorted according to its constituents before shredding. The granules can then be used to produce new polymer products with the injection moulding method or by extrusion.
The HydroPRS technology converts the unsorted waste into oil within 20 minutes in a way that saves resources. The crude oil can later be used as lubrication grease, wax or for producing new, high-quality plastic granules.
In the future, chemical recycling will show its advantages where conventional recycling cannot progress any further. In order to support Mura in the start-up phase and to help the technology achieve a worldwide breakthrough, igus invested four million British pounds (4.7 million euros) in January 2020 and increased the investment to a total of 5 million euros in spring 2021. Thanks to this support and the establishment and expansion of further partnerships, Mura was able to start construction of the first commercial HydroPRS plant. It is being built at the Wilton International site in Teesside in the north-east of England and is scheduled to go into operation in the second half of 2022.
The process is planned as follows: waste companies supply the plastic waste to achieve their recycling goals. Oil is then obtained that is available at a similar price to fossil oil. In the first phase, a total of four catalytic hydrothermal reactors will be built in Teesside to process more than 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year. In addition, further plants are planned in Germany, the US and Asia, among other places.
In April 2021, Dow Chemical, the world's second-largest chemical company, became another partner. The collaboration will further advance the scaling of Mura's advanced recycling process: Dow will use the newly extracted raw materials to develop new plastics for food packaging and other packaging products that will eventually be recycled back into global supply chains.